The ‘Stop Play’ Light

M.G. McIntosh





I’m a pretty big hockey fan. I follow the NHL pretty closely. I couldn’t help but read about the Carolina Hurricanes goal being challenged by the Columbus Blue Jackets and the ensuing mess. Apparently, the linesmen, the Columbus Replay Room and the Situation Room got their ‘wires crossed’. From what I read and understand, essentially the linesmen thought the call on the goal had been made, but were actually overhearing a conversation that was going on ‘upstairs’. They ruled on the play incorrectly and it resulted in a penalty being assessed to Columbus for delay of game. Then the mistake was fixed, partially, by rescinding the last 45 seconds of the powerplay. The goal was allowed to stand and no one actually knows why or how that makes sense.


The goal came at 18:45 of the second period, so I’m guessing that the passing of the end of the period is the reason why they didn’t rewind the clock. After all, do you give both teams another intermission or do they play an extra long period? Soccer might’ve solved this one by adding the ‘extra time’ function. The NHL could use the same thing and stipulate a 5 Minute intermission after the 3rd period for ‘extra time’. This would also give them time to correct the situation properly and let the game continue on with the least amount of interruption.


At the time of the stoppage of play – in this case on a coach’s challenge – a bright orange light, located in the scorekeeper’s box could be switched on to indicate play has been paused. The scorekeeper should be required to do a check, prior to play resuming, which includes:

  1. The score clock (goals, period, time remaining and penalties)
  2. A final confirmation from ‘upstairs’ that all is well
  3. A final confirmation from the Head Coach of each team that they are ready to resume play

This creates a situation where all parties must give a ‘green light’ before play resumes. It also means that both referees and both linesmen must see the light is out before play resumes. If the light is on, they will skate back over to the scorekeeper, hopefully preventing this debacle all together. After this check is complete, the light is turned off and the game is handed back over to the referees.


If you’ve ever played soccer, like me, then this is self-explanatory. I’m basically suggesting that each team has an orange “stop play’ flag at each bench. It would be just like the kind used by linemen in a soccer game to indicate ‘out-of-bounds’. This flag would currently serve at least two functions: coach’s challenge and time-out. Others can be added if they are needed to smooth out the game. In the earlier section I mentioned the scorekeeper checking in with each Head Coach adn this flag would make that easier. If either team is waving their flag then the game is still paused. Perhaps a checkered flag to indicate the team is ready – just to be clear. We wouldn’t want a lost flag to become a problem and it will. That’s hockey.


There’s not a whole lot more to say on this one. I think these changes would probably make the difference. Of course, all of this is based on the assumption that all communication should go through the scorekeeper because they have the only means of calling ‘upstairs’ – a phone. At least, it used to be a phone. Maybe I’m just old.

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